While patriots may like to believe their country will continue forever, it is a truth that nations occasionally fail to survive.
Table of Contents
Why do countries cease to exist?
Multiple factors may lead to the collapse of a country. East and West Germany merged to establish a single country, an example of a country that merged to form (or reform) a new nation.
The U.S.S.R., a federation of 15 independent states, broke apart into its component republics in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For example, in 1845, the Republic of Texas was annexed by the expanding United States of America.
For example, Vietnam annexed the Champa kingdom after a bloodless conquest and merged its culture with the Vietnamese majority.
Last but not least (and least disastrously), some states had kept their borders and institutions but changed their names, such as when Ceylon died and was resurrected as Sri Lanka in 1972.
Here is a list of some of the world’s most famous extinct nations:
- Abyssinia – Now known as Ethiopia
- Austria-Hungary – A region that included Austria, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, and the Balkans. Ceased to exist following World War I.
- Basutoland – Now known as Lesotho
- Bengal – Now part of India and Bangladesh
- Burma – Now known as Myanmar
- Catalonia – An autonomous region of Spain
- Ceylon – Now known as Sri Lanka
- Champa – Located in what is now Vietnam
- Corsica – Now a department of France
- East Germany – Reunited with West Germany to become Germany
- East Pakistan – Now known as Bangladesh
- England – Now part of the United Kingdom
- Gran Colombia – Was once what is now Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela.
- Hawaii Was a country until it annexed to the United States
- New Grenada – Now known as the Republic of Colombia
- Newfoundland – Now a Canadian province
- North Yemen – United with South Yemen in 1990 to become Yemen
- Ottoman Empire – Once included parts of Hungary, Russia, Turkey, the Middle East, the Balkans, and North Africa
- Persia – Now known as Iran
- Prussia – Once included parts of Germany and Poland. It was disbanded following World War II.
- Rhodesia – Now known as Zimbabwe
- Scotland – Now part of the United Kingdom
- Siam – Now known as Thailand
- Sikkim – Now part of North India
- South Vietnam – Now known as Vietnam
- South Yemen – United with North Yemen in 1990 to become Yemen
- Southwest Africa – Now known as Namibia
- Tanganyika – United with Zanzibar to form Tanzania
- Texas – Was an independent country until annexed by the United States
- Tibet – Now an autonomous region of China
- Transjordan – Now known as Jordan
- Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – Divided into 15 countries from 1988-1991
- United Arab Republic – Now split into Syria and Egypt
- Vermont – Was an independent country until it entered the U.S. as a state
- Wales – Now part of the United Kingdom
- West Florida (Republic of) – Included parts of Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, declaring independence from Spanish rule, became a United States territory in less than 90 days.
- West Germany – Reunited with East Germany to become Germany
- Western Samoa – Changed name to Samoa in 1997 (There is no Eastern Samoa, but American Samoa lies to the east)
- Yugoslavia – Split into six countries in the 1990s
- Zaire – Now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Zanzibar – United with Tanganyika to form Tanzania
Causes of nations’ decline and success throughout the last century
World Wars I and II severely disrupted many nations’ orientation and existence. After World War I in 1918, the border territory of Alsace-Lorraine between France and Germany was abolished.
Both the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany are extinct, yet their remnants may be found in the present-day nation of Germany.
After the Soviet Union disintegrated gradually between 1988 and 1992, 15 new nations emerged in Europe and Asia. Two nations that arose from World Wars I and II and had close relations with the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, have since disbanded.
Yugoslavia disintegrated into Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Slovenia, Serbia, and Kosovo. At the same time, Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia (struggling to attain independence from Serbia in 2021).
In the Middle East, Egypt and Syria merged in 1958 to become the United Arab Republic (UAR), which afterwards sought to include North Yemen (South Yemen) to become the United Arab States. In 1961, the UAR and UAS both disbanded.
Historically, Native Americans and First Nations had their governments & tribal alliances, and now they are integrated into contemporary nations like the United States, Canada, and Mexico; yet, this has not stopped some from considering them to be sovereign states in their own right.
This proposal has sparked a lot of debate since the Constitution of the United States recognises the sovereignty of indigenous peoples, yet this provision is generally disregarded or ignored.
|early 20th century
|Also known as the Ethiopian Empire, Abyssinia was a kingdom in northeast Africa. In the early 20th century, it split into the states of Eritrea and Ethiopia.
|A monarchy established in 1867, Austria-Hungary (also known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire) included not just Austria and Hungary but also parts of the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, Romania, and the Balkans. The empire collapsed at the end of World War I.
|Bengal was an independent kingdom in southern Asia that existed from 1338 to 1539. The area has since been divided into the states of Bangladesh and India.
|Burma officially changed its name to Myanmar in 1989. However, many countries still have not recognized the change.
|Catalonia was an autonomous region of Spain. It remained independent from 1932 to 1934 and from 1936 to 1939.
|Ceylon was an island country located off the coast of India. In 1972, it changed its name to Sri Lanka.
|This Mediterranean island was ruled by various nations over the course of its history but had several brief periods of independence. Today, Corsica is a department of France.
|Czechoslovakia was a country in eastern Europe. It peacefully split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.
|This area was a province of Pakistan from 1947 to 1971. It is now the independent state of Bangladesh.
|Gran Colombia was a South American country that included what is now Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, and Ecuador from 1819 to 1830. Gran Colombia ceased to exist when Venezuela and Ecuador seceded from the union.
|Though a kingdom for hundreds of years, Hawaii wasn't recognized as an independent country until the 1840s. The country was annexed to the United States in 1898.
|This South American country was part of Gran Colombia from 1819 to 1830 and was an independent country from 1830 to 1858. In 1858, the country became known as the Grenadine Confederation, then the United States of New Granada in 1861, the United States of Colombia in 1863, and finally, the Republic of Colombia in 1886.
|From 1907 to 1949, Newfoundland existed as the self-governing Dominion of Newfoundland. In 1949, Newfoundland joined Canada as a province.
|North Yemen and South Yemen
|Yemen split in 1967 into two countries, North Yemen (a.k.a. the Yemen Arab Republic) and South Yemen (a.k.a. the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen). However, in 1990 the two rejoined to form a unified Yemen.
|Also known as the Turkish Empire, this empire began around 1300 and expanded to include parts of contemporary Russia, Turkey, Hungary, the Balkans, northern Africa, and the Middle East. The Ottoman Empire ceased to exist in 1923 when Turkey declared independence from what remained of the empire.
|The Persian Empire extended from the Mediterranean Sea to India. Modern Persia was founded in the 16th century and later became known as Iran.
|Prussia became a Duchy in 1660 and a kingdom the following century. At its greatest extent, it included the northern two-thirds of modern Germany and western Poland. Prussia, by World War II a federal unit of Germany, was fully dissolved at the end of World War II.
|Scotland, Wales, and England
|Despite recent advances in autonomy, part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, both Scotland and Wales were independent nations that eventually merged with England to form the United Kingdom.
|Sikkim was an independent monarchy from the 17th century until 1975. It is now part of northern India.
|South Vietnam existed from 1954 to 1976 as the anti-communist counterpart to North Vietnam. It is now part of unified Vietnam.
|While Taiwan still exists, it is not always considered an independent country. However, it did represent China in the United Nations until 1971.
|The Republic of Texas gained independence from Mexico in 1836. It existed as an independent country until it was annexed to the United States in 1845.
|A kingdom established in the 7th century, Tibet was invaded by China in 1950. Since then, it has been known as the Xizang Autonomous Region of China.
|Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
|For decades, this country was the most powerful communist nation in the world. In 1991, it broke into 15 new countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldovia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
|United Arab Republic
|In 1958, non-neighbors Syria and Egypt joined together to form the United Arab Republic. In 1961, Syria abandoned the alliance, but Egypt kept the name United Arab Republic for itself for another decade.